Shock and awe—that’s what I received when I asked who Gordon Korman was while volunteering at the Vancouver Writers Fest. People rattled off titles, trying to jog a memory for me. Age was not a factor: seniors and a girl way younger than me were all horrified on my behalf.

There were a lot of variations of: “but surely you read (fill in with title of your choice)”.

I’m not saying I didn’t read any of Korman’s 80 books when I was a kid. I’m saying I don’t remember. I was at the library almost every day. I read a lot of books in my formative years.

And here we are! And I’ve read Restart, his latest fiction for middle grade readers. I liked it. I can see why people like Korman’s books, if this novel is any indication of his others. The characters are complex. They have motivations that seem real. Sometimes, they’re sort of horrible. They get confused. They act like you’d expect for their age, although perhaps in an over the top sort of way. I didn’t really feel like I was reading a book for children in Grades 5 to 8.

Restart starts with an accident. Chase Ambrose wakes up in the hospital. He doesn’t remember falling off a roof. He doesn’t remember anything, not even his mom. He doesn’t remember that he was a bully and terrorized his most of the kids at his middle school. Chase Ambrose was a dick.

Now he’s kind of nice. He makes friends with a cranky war vet. He protects some kids he used to bully. He plays Barbies with his step-sister.

Korman could have left it alone at that. But he gives Chase some introspection. Chase realizes that even though he’s forgotten who he is, and even though he’s nicer now, the old Chase is still inside him. New and old Chase are one person. And it’s up to him to chose, every day, who he is going to be.

I love this because it’s easy in today’s culture to blame circumstance on what happens to us and who we are, instead of the choices we make. People can change. They just have to chose to.

Gordon Korman appeared at Events 6 (Superstars x2) and 24 (Restart) at the 2017 Vancouver Writers Festival.

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